Charleston Experts share their favorite tequila-based cocktails (hold the margarita)


Ruta Smith

New drink, same spirit

National Tequila Day is coming up July 24, so naturally the margaritas will be flowing by 5 p.m. But with tequila's endless potential, why not try a new tequila-based cocktail this time around?

The five types of tequila — blanco, joven, reposado, anejo and extra anejo — all have different flavor profiles to shake up your cocktail game and create drinks that will outshine the classic margarita. To help freshen up this booze-themed holiday, we talked to some local tequila experts to get the scoop on some of the best non-margarita tequila cocktails.

Staying In

Mex 1 Coastal Cantina beverage director Morgan Hurley has some recommendations for enjoying tequila at home. "If they are working with a blanco tequila, I would want to go with some fresh squeezed citrus and sparkling mineral water for a lighter cocktail that complements the bright citrus and subtle sweetness of the blanco," he said. "If they are working with an anejo or a mezcal, then any classic stirred cocktail like an old fashioned or boulevardier will work perfectly and complement the oak and vanilla flavor profiles of an anejo."

Those looking for a more basic approach can try mixing it with kombucha — the slightly acidic notes from the fermentation make it a great complement to tequila. Local kombucha producer Dalai Sofia has flavors ranging from fruity to earthy. Mix the watermelon, strawberry, jalapeno and basil-infused Jala Berry kombucha with a shot or two of tequila for a sweet, spicy and floral cocktail.

Going Out

Those looking to venture outside their home for their tequila fix can head to Mesu for a reimagined take on an old fashioned. Substituting whiskey for anejo tequila, the drink has notes of warm spices and smoke that will remind you of the dark liquor normally found in this classic drink. Mesu complements these notes with the addition of Angostura bitters, orange bitters and simple syrup to balance out the smoky flavors.

Over at Jackrabbit Filly, beverage director Jared Chafin fuses Asian ingredients with tequila to create the "Vote For Pedro" cocktail. Instead of using lime juice as a citrus element, Chafin adds yuzu, which has the flavor of lemon mixed with grapefruit. "We wanted to make not only an approachable, but very food-friendly drink that works year-round," he said. "Tequila was the perfect vessel for shiso, yuzu and togarashi, which pair perfectly with our dishes."

Mex 1 Coastal Cantina has a wide variety of cocktails and six different tequila infusions that are sweet, spicy or a little of both. "At Mex 1, we want people to be able to enjoy their tequila and not take it chilled with lime and salt," Hurley said. "Our infusions can be a great gateway to being able to enjoy tequila."

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